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Strings and gravitation

Dieter Lüst wins ERC Advanced Grant

Munich, 11/28/2012

String theorist Professor Dieter Lüst has been awarded an Advanced Investigator Grant, worth up to 2.5 million euros, by the European Research Council (ERC). ERC Advanced Grants are intended to allow experienced researchers who have already established themselves as leaders in their respective fields to undertake high-risk projects that open up new perspectives for future advances.

String theory is one of the most exciting research topics in contemporary theoretical physics. The theory postulates that the fundamental building blocks of our Universe are tiny, one-dimensional, oscillating strings of energy. It is thought that this approach provides a way to combine the two conceptual frameworks that underlie our modern understanding of physics – quantum mechanics and the General Theory of Relativity – to provide a unified theory that incorporates all the forces and forms of matter observed in nature in one explanatory framework.

In particular string theory offers a new way to describe the gravitational force: “What is called superstring theory, which is based on the idea that there is a huge, overarching symmetry that provides a unified description of the behavior of all elemental particles, is currently the best candidate for a quantum theory of gravitation that accounts for all known interactions in particle physics,” says Dietmar Lüst. In his ERC-funded project on Fundamental Aspects of Strings and Gravity, Lüst hopes to uncover new links between the mathematics of strings – as a theory of quantum interactions – and gravitation. In addition to the mathematical bases of strings and gravity, his approach will make use of insights derived from particle physics and cosmology.

Beyond relativity
Essentially Lüst hopes to deepen our understanding of the mathematics that underpin superstring theory, which is largely based on geometrical and topological concepts. One of his principal goals is to go beyond Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity to investigate the behavior of strings at very high energies, and he will study new string geometries and their associated symmetries. The insights so obtained are expected to throw new light on various problems in cosmology – in relation to the expansion of the Universe and the nature of dark energy, for instance – and in particle physics. “The ultimate aim of the project is to arrive at new answers to questions that are at the heart of physics – in particular, issues that have a bearing on the origin and structure of our Universe,” says Lüst.

Professor Dieter Lüst studied Physics at the Technische Universität München, and obtained his PhD from LMU Munich in 1985. He subsequently worked at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena (USA), the Max Planck Institute for Physics in Munich and at CERN in Geneva, before being appointed to the Chair of Quantum Field Theory at the Humboldt University in Berlin in 1993. In 2004 Lüst moved to LMU to assume the Chair of Mathematical Physics, having been appointed as a Director of the MPI for Physics in the previous year. In addition, he is a member of the Excellence Cluster on the Origin and Structure of the Universe. Lüst has won several accolades for his contributions to research, including the Gottfried Willhelm Leibniz Prize awarded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) in 2000, and the Humboldt-Gay-Lussac Prize in 2006.

ERC Advanced Investigator Grants
ERC Advanced Investigator Grants are designed to support highly innovative research, which has the potential to extend significantly the frontiers of existing fields and pioneer the investigation of new areas. Projects are assessed solely on the basis of the scientific stature of their authors and the originality and quality of the proposed research program.

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